Date story was published: Tuesday, January 8, 1985
Until last night, Kentucky's outside shooting this season had been a flop.
Last night, as evidenced by a happy Kenny Walker, it was good enough to flip over as the Wildcats shot holes in Vanderbilt's game plan and beat the Commodores 75-58.
The red-hot Cats, now 7-4 and winners of six straight, added streak shooting to their recent accomplishments. Conceded the perimeter shots by Vandy, the Cats popped away at a 51.8 percent clip, their second-best performance of the season. (UK shot 52.4 percent at Purdue.)
Walker, who fought and scratched for a game-high 22 points, was so taken with the help from outside he did a backwards somersault in the game's final minute.
Walker did the somersault, complete with a handstand that would make Mary Lou Retton blush, to get back to his feet after being knocked to the floor while throwing an outlet pass.
But the junior forward could just as easily have been expressing his happiness with the sudden help from outside.
"That kind of shooting will open things up inside, not only for me but for Winston (Bennett) and our other big guys," Walker said. "We love to see those guards hitting."
For the record, the somersault was a spontaneous reaction to victory, Walker said. The Cats improved their Southeastern Conference record to 2-0 and dropped Vandy to 8-3 overall and 1-1 in the league.
"Just a little enjoyment," Walker said of his acrobatics. That much was obvious. After the 6-foot-8 forward sprang to his feet, he broke out into an ear-to-ear grin.
"When I looked up, I saw Richard (Madison) jumping up and laughing," Walker said. "I knew everyone was laughing.
"I felt the game was in the bag. You'll never see that in a close game. I'm strictly business as usually."
Roger Harden was the hottest of the Cats. Harden, who entered the game as a 40-percent shooter, hit his first six shots. Partly because foul trouble limited his play to 19 minutes, Harden missed only one shot (he was six for seven).
UK was 55.6 percent from the field in the first half when it literally shot into control.
"The difference, in my opinion, was they shot awfully well from the perimeter," Vandy coach C.M. Newton said. "You have to give up something somewhere against a team as good as Kentucky. I was proud of our guys. We went by the game plan. We wanted to force them to shoot from the perimeter."
Kentucky entered the game with a seasonal shooting percentage of 43.3 percent.
Although the shooting improved, one UK plus remained constant. Walker was again Walker.
Walker, who was named Sports Illustrated magazine's player of the week, was right at his average of 21.8 points a game.
This came despite the dogged defense of Vandy's Steve Reece, who battled Walker for every post-up position and every feed inside.
"I knew I wasn't going to stop him; no one in the country will," Reece said of Walker. "We felt if I could hold him to the 14-18 point range, we might have a chance. He's a great player. I did the best I could."
Walker spread his points throughout the game. He had 10 in the first half, 12 in the second.
As with his team's execution of the game plan, Newton could find no fault in Reece's defense.
"He did as good a job as can be done," the Vandy coach said of Reece. "I think if you ask Walker, he'd say the same thing."
Walker did, noting the effort Reece gave.
"He stuck me hard and did not let me have the ball easily," Walker said. ''He did play hard. I think he tried to frustrate me a little. But I learned in high school not to accept that as a compliment."
As good as Walker played, he wasn't the difference, Reece said.
"The difference was they were able to bring so many guys off the bench who scored six to eight points each," Reece said.
Every Kentucky player got into the game and all but Leroy Byrd and Robert Lock scored.
Richard Madison, back from a one-game suspension, scored eight points, including a fast-break slam that gave Kentucky its largest lead, 63-45, with 8:27 remaining.
Another UK freshman, Cedric Jenkins, scored his first basket of the season. Jenkins rebounded a James Blackmon miss and tucked it home while being fouled.
Both Madison's dunk and Jenkins' three-point play were part of an 11-2 UK run that extended a 52-43 edge to 18 points.
Jenkins' basket helped atone for his gaffe against North Carolina State on Saturday. In that game, the 6-8 rookie mistakenly tried to take the ball out after a UK free throw.
Many observers were probably surprised when Jenkins entered the game with 15:56 remaining in the second half. Jenkins wasn't.
"I knew it was going to come sometime," Jenkins said. "He (Hall) caught me by surprise the last time (against N.C. State). That taught me a lesson."
UK's free-throwing shooting helped protect the lead. The Cats made 17 of 18 free throws in the game and had made 23 straight over two games at one point.
In the first half, Phil Cox seemed to have shaken the Rupp Arena jinx, but that didn't help Vandy much.
Cox, who had never scored more than 13 points in his previous three games in Lexington, had 12 in the first half and finished with 14. Despite that production, Kentucky was able to forge a 38-27 lead at intermission.
UK got that lead with old reliable Walker pacing the attack. Walker had 10 points in the first half.
The Wildcats also got a lift from two of its freshmen off the bench.
Ed Davender flipped in two baskets in the closing minutes, including a jumper off the fast break that gave Kentucky its largest lead of the half, 30-19, with 4:46 to go.
Davender also played tight defense on Cox when the Cats were in a man-to- man.
Madison also had four points as the two freshmen accounted for all but two of UK's final 10 points of the half.
With Cox hitting four of his first six shots, Vandy stayed even with Kentucky in the first eight minutes.
However, when Cox cooled off (he finished the half hitting five of 11 shots), Kentucky took control. The Cats ran off eight straight points (two baskets on tip-ins) to take a 24-15 lead with 8:08 to go in the half.
The two teams played with only two referees for the final 6:55 of the half. Veteran official Paul Galvan pulled a muscle in his left calf at that point of the game and limped off the court. He did not return.